Friday, April 26, 2013

Why Putting Sod in Your Brooder Will Help Your Chicks

By Leigh -

Young chicks need to be both protected from the world an exposed to it at the same time. If hatched under a broody hen, the mother hen will usually take her chicks outside by the third day after hatch. Right from the start, the chicks are exposed to the pathogens and soils of their home. This early exposure helps develop and boost their immature immune systems.

But if chicks are raised in a brooder, how can they be safely exposed to the grasses and soils on your property? How will they develop healthy immunity to the pathogens that might be present outside of the brooder box?

The answer is as simple as a plug of sod from your own chicken yard.

By bringing a little of the outdoors in, your chicks will have the benefits of scratching a bit of real dirt, they’ll get the taste of grass, possibly find a small bug or two and gain exposure to the local bacteria and nematodes they will encounter once they leave the brooder.

(Photo courtesy of S. Strantz)

Do make sure the plug of sod you take from your yard has not been treated with any insecticide, herbicide or any other chemicals. Also, it goes without saying that it should not contain any poisonous plants like nightshade or poison ivy. 

 (Photo courtesy of J. Lewis)
Aside from the obvious safety matters, any grass or weeds will do. Dandelions are actually packed with good vitamins and minerals, so if you pull them up by the roots while gardening, save them for your chicks!

(Photos courtesy of "Melabella & S. Strantz)

Some chicks may appear fearful of this odd new object in their midst. When a mother hen wants to call her brood over to enjoy a treat, she will peck at the treat and make a quick “Buk, buk, buk” sound. Interestingly, chicks will respond the same way if you poke a finger at a treat (in this case, the piece of sod) and make the same kind of sound. You may feel a bit goofy doing it, but it works like a charm. (You can use the same trick to teach your young chicks to try any kind of new food, treat or show them where the water is.)

 (Photo courtesy of S. Strantz)

So if you happen to be raising chicks this spring, or plan to raise some chicks in the future, be sure to try giving them some sod! Their immune systems will thank you!

- Leigh

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